DETROIT — A good catcher fills a lot of roles on a team, sometimes even a part-time psychologist. Jake Rogers was a support group for Tigers top prospects, and not just pitchers.
Sharing a house in Florida with Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, ranked as the Nos. 1 and 2 prospects for Detroit by MLB Pipeline, Rogers was more than the guy who knew what to do when Torkelson sliced open his finger trying to open a can. He also was often a sounding board for Torkelson’s frustrations over a tough first Spring Training.
“He would come home every day mad, because we all like to compete,” Rogers said before making his season debut behind the plate in Saturday’s game against the Twins at Comerica Park. “And I would just tell him to relax. He’d come home and be mad for about an hour, and then I’d just give him crap the whole time he was there, making him even more mad. And then after a while, he would cool down.
“We talked like, ‘Hey, man, just relax. You can’t build Rome in a day. It’s going to take some time. Guys get to come up through the Minor Leagues. You get thrown into the fire, right into big league pitching, and it’s tough. Guys find a weakness and they stick to it.’ So I always tried to give him a little bit of advice here and there. I don’t know if he listened or not.”
Rogers, ranked as the club’s No. 14 prospect, has learned the value of patience. The last time he was in the big leagues, he was the Tigers’ catcher of the future, whose time seemed to have arrived. That was the summer of 2019, and a deep slump in September made it apparent that he still needed to mature, both offensively and defensively.
Rogers’ widely anticipated second chance in Detroit last summer never happened; he spent the abbreviated season at the alternate training site instead. Moreover, the Tigers drafted another catcher, Dillon Dingler, who’s off to a solid start this week at High-A West Michigan with a chance to advance quickly.
“In 2020, it was frustrating,” Rogers admitted. “You want to make it to the big leagues. You want to get up here and you put in some work to get up here and it just didn’t work out. I’ll admit, I was a little angry there for a little bit. But after that, looking back and seeing being angry doesn’t help anybody, so I’m just kind of out here having fun being myself.”
Rogers stayed positive and stayed with the swing work he had done last offseason with hitting guru Doug Latta. He used Spring Training as an opportunity to learn from former big league catcher turned manager A.J. Hinch, even after it became apparent Rogers would not beat out Grayson Greiner for the backup catcher spot in Detroit. He then went back to Toledo and got to work.
“I’m not saying I don’t want to be here,” Rogers continued, “but I’m being myself and playing the best that I can and working to be here.”
It took an unfortunate circumstance to get him here with Wilson Ramos’ back injury. And it might not last long; Ramos’ injury isn’t expected to sideline him much longer than his 10-day minimum stint on the injured list. But when Rogers got the call on Friday to make the hour-long drive north from Toledo, he could be excused for feeling it was a bigger step.
“It’s an opportunity here,” he said, “and I’m going to run with it and hopefully do pretty well up here and make a name for myself. And if I stay up here after 10 days, I do. If I don’t, I’m going to go back down and serve my time and wait. I’m just here trying to help the team win.”
Mazara returns; Reyes optioned
As expected, outfielder Nomar Mazara was reinstated from the 10-day IL and back in the lineup on Saturday. He missed three weeks with a left abdominal strain, but felt fine in a three-game rehab assignment for Toledo.
Victor Reyes was optioned back to Toledo to make room on the roster. The 26-year-old switch-hitter was showing signs of coming out of his slump, including a three-hit game on Tuesday in Boston, but he was just 9-for-63 with 18 strikeouts and a 16 OPS+.
Ramirez to IL; Jimenez called up
Erasmo Ramirez was ready to make his Tigers debut on Friday night, warming up in the bullpen the fourth inning as Tarik Skubal’s pitch count rose. Then, Ramirez felt discomfort on a toss. The right-hander landed on the 10-day IL on Saturday with a right pectoralis strain.
“It’ll be more than 10 days,” Hinch said, “but I have no idea how long.”
Former Detroit closer Joe Jiménez was recalled from Toledo to fill his spot. It’s the second stint this season for Jiménez, who walked seven batters over two appearances in mid-April.